Chinese security forces have killed 17 suspected Uighur “militants” in Xinjiang, in response to a knife attack on a coal mine in September that left 50 Han Chinese dead. Reuters reports on the deaths, which come after Beijing asked the international community for help in fighting what it described as a terrorist threat in its own restive west:
Radio Free Asia, citing Xinjiang police, said the 17 killed were all suspects in the attack, including three men believed to have been the ringleaders and their family members.
Repeated calls to the Xinjiang government seeking comment went unanswered.
“I heard from colleagues who participated in the operation that the military blew up the cave where the suspects were hiding,” the report quoted Xinjiang police officer Ghalip Memethe as saying.
“That is why we were able to kill all of them with zero victims [from our side]. Seventeen corpses were gathered after the explosion.”
Reports indicated that security forces blew up a cave where the militants were hiding, and that several women and children numbered among them.
These deaths come amidst China’s ongoing attempt to control Xinjiang and the Uighur Muslims who live there. In making that attempt, officials have taken the counterproductive tack of passing laws that penalize the practice of Islam for all Muslims in the area, whether radical or not (for example, banning Ramadan). Indiscriminate persecution of that type isn’t likely to keep radicalism contained, but rather to fuel it. The news that women and children were in the cave will likely have the same result. This ham-fisted approach in Xinjiang—of a piece in some ways with Beijing’s crackdown on Christians in Wenzhou and Xi’s purge—is not likely to end well.